The Joke Machine (CITV, 1985-1989)
This is a comedy show that was shown on CITV in the 80s that went through a few formats. The Joke Machine was usually around 15 minutes long and it was a Border production (making it one of their higher-profile bigger budget shows for ITV, ha-ha). The show featured a host and a machine that along with some children would try to tell as many jokes as they could.
In the first series in 1985 the machine was called Fearless Fred, and the hosts were the double-act The Krankies. I must admit that I don’t remember this version, but I have no doubt that it must have been Fandabidozi. In 1987 the second format launched and that was the one that caught my attention. The machine was now called Charles and it was able to talk, and there was a new host.
And that host was only Andrew O’Connor! This was something of a surprise though because he is so silly, he was once asked why don’t bees hum and he said it was because they don’t know the words. As you might know by now I have enjoyed a lot of Andrew’s TV work over the years, so it was good to see him doing this, and I’m not even joking when I say that he’s also one of my favourite game show hosts and is a regular feature in my Game Show Memories series.
This meant that I got a little overexcited when I found one of his editions of The Joke Machine online, and he really packed a lot into the time and showed off his various skills. As well as telling some groan-worthy jokes, Andrew also sang the opening theme, did some impressions, performed some magic tricks, and he would even do a little dance if needed. There were a few regular features, including Tag The Gag, where Andrew would have to guess how a joke ends, and he usually got it wrong.
Another fun feature was The Magic Circle where Andrew would perform a trick and nobody could work out how it was done because he was clever like that, and he would also help some children perform a funny sketch. There were some amusing credits too, such as the producer being credited as “Man With Headache”. There was also a Christmas special in 1987.
But for the third and final series in 1989, the format changed again. Andrew had gone, and the host was now wellie-wearing jokester Jimmy Cricket, who was occasionally assisted by Jim Bowen for even more quickfire gags, how marvellous. I wouldn’t know how many viewers remember watching The Joke Machine, and I’m not sure how many people out there would ever admit to having been on it, but it was very entertaining.